Call Your Senators Today!! Vote No to Obamacare Repeal.

This week has offered us a contemplative and newsworthy glimpse into the challenging lives of America’s poor. A Yale study released on Monday sheds light on the economic gap between blacks and whites and misconceptions of racial economic equality in this country. Reverend William Barber the former President of North Carolina’s NAACP, and dynamic speaker at the National Democratic Convention declared in the Los Angeles Times this week that he is continuing his fight against poverty through his national Poor People’s Campaign. And finally, the announcement of the Graham-Cassidy health care bill designed to dismantle the current United States health care program by the September 30 deadline is the latest attack on America’s poor.

As the Senate prepares to make changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that could impact low-income patients with deep cuts to Medicaid, the debate is not merely a political one but a moral one. It doesn’t matter if you live in a red or blue state or you tout liberal or conservative, America has a poor people problem that can longer be blamed on poor people. The economic gap is real, it is statistically unquestionable and the response deserves our best, most thoughtful public policy and economic response if we are to become an America, as good as its promise.

This current proposed bill is just another Obamacare repeal bill. As a sister, aunt, and daughter and as a mother and grandmother whose ancestors were known for caring for others and believing in the goodness in all who need nurturing and care it is unfathomable that our great country would consider snatching away the much-needed medical care safety net from any one of God’s children. Unfathomable! Call your senators to urge them to vote NO.

God is Watching Georgia

“As Congress debates whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act nationwide, Georgia continues to suffer from the impact of having never fully implemented the law in the first place. Two more rural hospitals are on the verge of closure as a result of Georgia’s backward and politically defiant healthcare policy. Adel and Monroe Counties appear to be the next victims. The fate of Cook Medical Center, in Adel, is now sealed as officials confirm that the center is scheduled to close its doors at the end of February. And Monroe County Hospital is teetering on the verge of shutdown, too.” Better Georgia

This is shameful. As a metro Atlanta resident, my family and I have the good fortune to live within a few miles of some of the most prestigious hospitals and medical care centers in the world. Yet our fellow Georgians,  who live in rural parts of the state, are losing their access to basic healthcare and hospital access. Perhaps the state legislature and the Governor should consider dedicating the state’s profits from proposed casino gambling to expanding Medicare and improving mental health care for the hundreds of thousands of Georgians who have neither. The state legislators who will vote to approve gambling or place a casino initiative on the ballot ought to take a step back and think about the needs of the people they serve. Georgia remains one of the states that values shiny new things and spanking new facilities more improving the lives of its taxpayers and residents. Along with health care and mental health care, education is underfunded as are transit, environmental justice solutions, jobs and business development and community development. If we are to grant new wealth building rights to a few people let’s use the same business opportunities to improve the quality of life of millions of Georgians who call the state home wherever they live in Adel, on Westside Atlanta or Monroe County.

My grandmother, Mary Emma, reminded me when I thought no one was watching,  “God is watching you. And he expects you to do good and to make the world a better place for others.”                        God is watching all of us.  Shirley Franklin

 

Read the entire story at the link below South Georgia hospital treating tornado victims scheduled to close                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

 

 

Demographics haven’t shifted elections in Georgia, yet!

Vinson Institute-UGAAs more and more people become engaged in the presidential campaigns either as voters, caucus members or active campaigners, news articles and columns are speculating about which supporters are best positioned or angling for appointments and VIP statuses the new administration.

There is talk all over Atlanta about who will get the nod for which positions in which administration. Ambassadorships and Cabinet appointments are among the most mentioned. Hopes are high in political circles that at least a few Georgians will follow their predecessors – United Nations  Ambassador Andrew Young, White House staff person Rita Samuels, Director of Presidential Personnel Veronica Biggins, Ambassador Gordon Giffen or Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates are among the host of other Atlantans who have served among a President’s most respected and trusted advisors. Even as those considerations are being entertained, most voters and most polls expect Georgia to remain a red state in November. The growth of Georgia’s population over the last decades and the demographics – young, black, brown and international have changed the “color” and “culture”  of the state’s residents,  but we have yet to see a change from “conservative and right leaning” political philosophy in statewide or Congressional elections.

Last year Cabral reminded me about having thousands of qualified registered yet seemingly uninterested voters move to the state or the city doesn’t automatically change election outcomes. Even massive voter registration drives like Georgia House Minority Leader and State Representative for the 89th House District Stacey Abrams’ New Georgia Project in 2012 haven’t moved the needle much. The population of Georgia might be browner and more left leaning but so far election results haven’t shifted.

Before anyone starts packing for Washington, DC maybe we should ask them to focus on a few of the issues that face at least a million Georgians. Those who live on limited or fixed incomes have the greatest needs but all Georgians suffer when we “play politics” while Georgians face social and political obstacles to improve their everyday lives. From the LIMITED accessible, affordable, clean public transportation, affordable housing, healthcare and mental healthcare options, affordable post-secondary and higher education, funding for medical research, support for technology incubators, business retention and expansion incentives,  business opportunities for small, minority and female businesses to HIGH rates of incarceration and recidivism, high school, community college and college dropout rates, family and child poverty and persistent and growing high levels of homelessness in both cities and the suburbs, Georgia officials and civic leaders, all of us, have a lot of work to do at home before moving up the ladder to national leadership.

I count myself as responsible to do some of the hard work too. Whether Georgia is red, blue or purple in the November elections, we should choose the road less traveled and double down on getting Georgia on the right track for those who are most in need.

VOTING MATTERS: Shame on any Georgian who doesn’t register to vote OR vote!

voteFrom time to time we will write a case that exemplifies why who gets elected might matter to the thousands of our neighbors and friends who haven’t registered to vote. Voting matters because whoever gets elected can impact your life in ways you would never expect.

Take the case of a friend who supports himself doing special projects while going to school. He has a chronic disease which is managed by his doctor’s close attention to every detail about his wellbeing and a collection of prescription drugs which keep him well.  With the reelection of Georgia Governor Nathan  Deal it wasn’t clear he was at risk of losing affordable access to his prescription drugs, but that is what happened. His monthly deductible jumped from $26 to $1395. What working person can afford this change? Only the rich!

Here’s the full story…..

In 2014, the state of Georgia decided to move all persons who have Plan D Medicare coverage and were participating in the no cost Ryan White Care Drug Assistance Program Part B, from this program and require them to utilize their Plan D coverage for their HIV drugs. Many of these individuals are on disability or individuals who returned to work and were able to maintain their Medicare coverage. For those working, they are the working poor. By making this policy decision effective 2015, Governor Deal’s goal was to shift the burden to the Federal government, claiming that this opened up slots for people in need of the Part B plan of Ryan White. In effect, this social policy decision placed an undue burden on the working poor, who already have a 20% co-pay under Medicare, by making these individuals subject to the infamous Plan D Medicare “doughnut hole.” Individuals, using Plan D to pay for their HIV drugs, if they don’t qualify for Medicare Extra Help, or non-profit grant assistance, are left with staggering out-of-pocket deductibles. The way this works, once you have spent $2,840 in Medicare for drugs, you then “fall” into a co-payment hole you have to spend your way out to the tune of $4,550, then your co-payments fall back down. This recently happened to my friend who did not qualify for any assistance. His HIV medications, which normally costs him $26.06 per month in co-payments, rose to $1,395 per month overnight. Those who are working and struggle, get buried in medical debt – this is but one example of who gets left behind when the cost effective measures to our health care social policy and make the working poor subject to outrageous co-payments. Governor Deal led the state to make it harder for my friend to get the medications  he needs and to add insult to injury the state didn’t notify him. He found out when he went to the doctor 30 days after the effective date of the policy shift.

A governor who cares about the well being of all Georgians could do something about this. Georgia has elected and reelected a governor who doesn’t care and who leaves hard working people to fend for themselves. Shame on Governor Nathan Deal and shame on every qualified Georgian who doesn’t register to vote or any registered voter who doesn’t vote.  If this story reminds you of someone in your family or your circle of friends, get registered and vote in November.

 

 

Flint–The Poison of Politics

flintPrior to the environmental fiasco in Flint, I would never have imagined the likelihood that an elected official would make a budget decision that would poison an entire city. It is unimaginable, yet here we are. For those unfamiliar with the widely publicized story, a brief summary is offered.

In 2011 when many cities had still not recovered from the 2008 economic recession, the financially strapped city of Flint was taken over by the state. Then Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, retained emergency managers to cut costs and manage the struggling city.

Two years later, it was decided that Flint should break away from the Detroit water system that pulled water from Lake Heron and join a new water district. In April 2014, Flint switched its water system and started drawing water from the Flint River. There are lead pipes throughout the system and in older homes with copper water pipes that were held together with lead solder, the lead corroded the water. The World Health Organization has said that lead poisoning can cause adverse neurological effects.

The problem is now headline news as reports of sick school children who now have lead poisoning, state EPA officials have resigned, truck loads of donated water arrive in Flint everyday and both the state and federal government officials have declared a state of emergency for the city.

I wish this was just about a bad budget decision, but the cries of environmental racism can’t be overlooked. And not just from political candidates hammering for sound bites. New York Times columnist, Charles Blow wrote,”An entire American city exposed to poisoned water. How could this be? It is hard to imagine this happening in a city that didn’t have Flint’s demographic profile — mostly black and disproportionately poor.”

If not racist it is clearly unjust, unfair, and unacceptable.

A recent reminder the HIV/AIDS epidemic has not been defeated!

By Gary S. Cox

2015AIDSThe first time I heard any mention of HIV/AIDS was in 1981. I read an article to a friend about a strange new illness that was only affecting gay men. After I read the article, I ignorantly quipped, “There sure are going to be a lot of shocked parents if this disease somehow knows you are gay!” Little did I know this article was the precursor for me to many hospital bedside vigils, nurses in space suits, changing diapers on bed ridden friends, and home visits to take meals to sick friends. Perry, Tom, Jesse, Michael, David … to this day the names and faces still haunt me with “survivors guilt”. This was before effective medications, Project Open Hand or a federally funded AID Atlanta.

Then there was a glimmer of hope. First, there was AZT and eventually the three drug “cocktail” given today as the “standard of care.” The new drugs saved lives. The federal government took HIV/AIDS as a serious health threat. Casework and social services previously provided by friends became the domain of social workers and home health care professional. HIV/AIDS moved from being a death sentence to a chronic illness. The new slogan became, as it is now, “Living with HIV/AIDS.”

Yet, in the past week leading up to World AIDS Day, I faced a sobering reminder that we have not yet won the battle against HIV/AIDS. This revelation came in the form of a telephone call from a friend who is sick from AIDS. His body simply cannot tolerate the drugs needed to keep the virus at bay. It hurts my heart to see him shaking from the neurological complications of taking HIV medications and from HIV/AIDS. His right hand and leg shake uncontrollably like Parkinson’s disease. His neurological condition affects his gait, his ability to grasp thoughts and slurs his speech. While on the telephone with him, I sensed he was on the verge of tears. He had recently moved back to the city to be near Grady’s IDP Clinic and MARTA. He previously lived in Gwinnett County. He could no longer afford to own a car and had given it up. His only income is a $1,200 monthly disability check and a few dollars in food stamps. Like so many gay men in the 1980’s and early ‘90’s, he had no support system other than his friends. His family and his church, both have a problem with him having AIDS and being gay.

During my brief telephone conversation with him, he was choking on his words. He was having an emotional meltdown and in panic-mode. We had previously gotten him signed up for meals with Project Open Hand. He had just called to find out when the meal delivery service would start. He was told there was an administrative mix-up. His meal delivery would not start for another week. He had no money for food. He bemoaned, “Gary, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” panic had taken him over. I responded, “I will be over shortly. I am working on a project I need to finish up. But together, I’m sure we can figure out something.” On the drive over to his house, it was like “déjà vu” – I was back in the 1980’s doing basic care for a sick friend because there was no HIV/AIDS support system yet in place. I picked my friend up. I took him to the nearest Kroger. I said, “Get what you need to get you through the week.” He broke down and cried. This experience was a sobering remembrance, we are a long way from a cure.

I have read numerous articles and listened to the debate on PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis). Some people I know think it is okay to have unprotected sex as long as they are taking PrEP, after all the “effectiveness rate,” according to studies, is 90% to 99% effective in preventing HIV. As for my two cents worth on the subject, PrEP is great as long as it is used in conjunction with safe sex. It should not be used as a “license” to have unprotected sex. I look at my friend and I ask myself, “Just what the hell are young gay men thinking when they think they can take a pill to have unprotected sex!” Like my friend, sometimes the HIV drugs damage you so badly the quality of life becomes questionable. Unprotected sex, regardless of PrEP usage, simply isn’t worth the risk! If you don’t believe this, I will gladly introduce to my friend for a reality check!

To achieve equity in our cities, start at the neighborhood level

Originally posted in Saporta Report

By Guest Columnist SHIRLEY FRANKLIN, executive board chair of Purpose Built Communities and Atlanta’s mayor from 2002 to 2010

eastlakeSRLast week, Lesley Grady of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta wrote an insightful piece called “Equity, Inequality and Myth Busting” that highlighted the extreme income inequality between white households and African-American households in Atlanta.

“Addressing income inequality will require our collective courage to acknowledge historic, pervasive biases and structures, bounded by race and class, which anchor whole families and communities in perpetual poverty,” she argued.

We agree.

I just returned from the sixth annual Purpose Built Communities Conference in Fort Worth, TX, which brought together leaders from fields including business, real estate, medicine, public health, housing, education, social entrepreneurship, social justice, criminal justice, and the faith community.

More than 350 people from 49 communities across the country came together to learn about neighborhood transformation and breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty.

There are those who think a neighborhood focus is too narrow. According to the latest data and research, neighborhoods are exactly where we should be focusing if we want to reverse decades of concentrated poverty and create equity and prosperity.

There are those who think a neighborhood focus is too narrow. According to the latest data and research, neighborhoods are exactly where we should be focusing if we want to reverse decades of concentrated poverty and create equity and prosperity.

Several sessions at the conference focused on the ways neighborhoods determine health outcomes. Dr. Lisa Chamberlain from the Stanford Medical School and Dr. Douglas Jutte from the Build Healthy Places Network shared striking data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthy America  about life expectancies in different neighborhoods within cities.

In Minneapolis, a distance of three miles could equal a 13-year difference in lifespan. In New Orleans, life expectancy can vary as much as 25 years from one neighborhood to another.

New York University professor Patrick Sharkey’s research about place and poverty shows that having a mother who was raised in a distressed neighborhood puts a child at a two-to-four year cognitive development deficit at birth.

The question is, why is this the case?

According to Jutte and Chamberlain, the science shows that environment has a greater impact on health outcomes than genetics.

Our neighborhood environment, including physical conditions (e.g. presence or lack of sidewalks and lead paint), service conditions (e.g. transportation, stores, schools) and social conditions (e.g. crime, sense of community or lack thereof), largely determine how long a person will live and what kind of quality of life they will have.

Factors like toxic stress, which is prevalent in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, impact both neurological and physical development.

Dr. David Erickson, director of the Center for Community Development Investments for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and Carol Naughton, president of Purpose Built Communities, shared the latest research impacting community development, including the work of economist Raj Chetty, whose research found a strong correlation between place and upward economic mobility.

There are two ways we know of to address this: one is to move people out of neighborhoods of concentrated poverty to ones where the physical, service and social conditions are qualitatively better.

Another is to improve those conditions in distressed neighborhoods.

Purpose Built Communities exists to help with the latter, assisting local leaders implement a comprehensive model consisting of mixed-income housing; a cradle-to-college education pipeline; and community wellness programs and services guided by a dedicated “community quarterback” nonprofit organization whose sole focus is the health of the neighborhood.

In the span of just six years, we now have 13 Purpose Built Communities Network Members from coast to coast, including East Lake here in Atlanta which provided the blueprint for this model of neighborhood transformation. All of these neighborhoods have community quarterbacks and partners implementing this model to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty.

Our Annual Conference is a chance for those working in these neighborhoods, and those who are thinking about doing this work, to learn from one another to achieve the results we so desperately need.

As Lesley Grady said, “we have to go further and deeper and fix the fault line that prevents all families and communities from sharing in the region’s growth and prosperity.”

By focusing on the neighborhood level in a holistic manner, Atlanta and other cities can change the trajectory for hundreds of families, especially children, so that a zip code will no longer determine a person’s health, income or lifespan.

 

 

What a week in Washington!

President’s progressive agenda moves full steam ahead in his newly found fearlessness!

By Gary Cox

OBamaIn a recent Los Angeles radio interview, President Obama declared, “I am fearless.” This liberating pronouncement came ahead of a week of sweeping victories in the courts and in Congress. At the beginning of the week, the U.S. Supreme Court handed the President major victories on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Fair Housing. In a 6-3 decision, the High Court gave a “conservative” interpretation of the ACA by looking at what Congress intended in the overall legislation. Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “Congress did not mean for health insurance markets to work in some states and not work in others!”Chief Justice Roberts reaffirmed Congress’s intent and let stand insurance tax credit subsidies for residents whose state, like Georgia, does not have a state operated insurance exchange. This was a major victory which will assure that access to insurance and healthcare remains a basic fundamental right.

The High Court also upheld the Fair Housing Act of 1968, noting in the case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Community Project, “disparate impact” is an integral part of the Fair Housing Act and can be taken into account whether or not the discrimination was unintended or deliberate. In the 5-4 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “. . . disparate impact under the FHA has played a key role in promoting racial equality in housing and fighting discrimination,” This ruling holds intact the basic premise of the Fair Housing Act which is to end discrimination in the sale, financing or rental of housing based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Lastly, as predicted by Blogging While Blue when the Supreme Court refused to issue a stay to prevent same-sex marriages in Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state constitutional bands on same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges(Ohio). Jim Obergefell married his terminally ill partner in Maryland and wanted to be listed as the surviving spouse on his husband’s death certificate. He won, but the State of Ohio appealed and the lower court decision was overturned – which led to the U.S. Supreme Court challenge. Obergefell stated he never intended to be the face of gay marriage, but Ohio forced his hand. With this victory came Georgia’s first gay couple to be married Emma Foulkes and Petrina Bloodworth of Atlanta. They were married by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Morrison, who is openly gay.

With President Obama at the helm, progressive policies and ideas are in the forefront of social change. Healthcare is a basic human right, fair housing opportunities are a basic civil right and marriage equality, now the law of the land, has come full circle since 2004 when many of the state constitutional bans against same-sex marriage were enacted. Progressive ideas that were once considered “radical thought” are now mainstream law. Yet, the battle is not over. The attainment of civil and human rights is an “evolutionary process” and not a “revolutionary” one.

Should We Care about Affordable Care Act Subsidies? YES

ACAThe U.S. Supreme Court could release its decision in the King v. Burwell case any day, deciding whether some 412,000 Georgians will lose tax credits that go toward their health insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). What is to be decided is whether the government can provide subsidies in the 34 states that opted out of offering their own insurance exchanges, which includes Georgia.

It is a fact that over 400,000 Georgians, many hardworking, honest people who contribute to the economy of the state but whose employment or income limit their health insurance options could face serious consequences.

Somehow the political debate minimizes their individual stories and ignores their wellbeing. The political discourse seems to be the familiar wrong headed, selfish partisanship. This situation raises questions. Who votes for these politicians? Why do people who have benefits not care about those who don’t? Why don’t those who need the benefits vote their interests or in record numbers? Access to affordable healthcare isn’t about race, ethnicity or gender. It shouldn’t be a politically volatile issue. It should be a unifying issue. Everyone needs access. Too few Georgians vote and too few vote for candidates that share their interests.

This issue requires voters to elect candidates who can see beyond partisanship and who understand that the “pursuit of happiness” must include accessible, affordable, cutting edge healthcare- prevention, research and treatment for everyone.

President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Congress understood the necessity to support the medical needs of the elderly when in 1965 he signed the Medicare bill into law. Many between the elderly and the young and those we count on to work to support themselves and their families are caught in the middle of this senseless debate. They and adults with special medical and mental health needs will suffer serious harm if the Court rules against the ACA.

Culturally we expect Americans to work, to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, to make it on their own and to carry their own weight. It takes a village to support a child and the health, education and wellness of the adults who care for them makes all the difference in their success. It would be a waste if America forgets the basic needs of every man, woman and child.

 

 

http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2015/06/16/two-gop-congressional-districts-among-the-top-five-that-would-be-impacted-by-an-adverse-obamacare-ruling/

This week’s AIDS data is more alarming than the headlines

Beverly L. IsomSisterLove

The headlines this week about the HIV stats in Atlanta were alarming because the data is alarming. “Atlanta is ranked No. 5* among U.S. cities when it comes to the rate of new diagnoses of HIV”; “Atlanta is No. 1 US city with new HIV cases” and “Half of Atlanta’s newly diagnosed HIV patients have AIDS.”

As a Board Member of SisterLove in Atlanta, I am proud of the work that the organization has been doing for decades and the advocacy and leadership of its president Dazon Dixon Diallo but I am also troubled that there still so much more work that has to be done.

A recent study highlights the issue at Grady Health System where they started routine HIV testing in 2013 and has seen an average of two or three patients with HIV every day. Grady Hospital started free HIV testing in its emergency room for every patient no matter why they were there. Unfortunately based on the study, by the time some patients saw the doctor, nearly 3 of 10 already have the virus.

There are a myriad of reasons that people don’t get tested early enough. There is stigma, fear, poverty and misinformation about how the disease is contracted. And a key reason is that not every health care facility offers the convenience of free HIV testing on site. However, community-based organizations like SisterLove have been advocating and offering free testing in a caring and non -judgmental environment for years. Community-based organizations have been leading the charge on educating and empowering communities at risk but the news this week was frustrating even for some of them.

Dazon Dixon Diallo said, “It’s not acceptable to have a zero line item for HIV prevention … It’s unacceptable to not have expanded Medicaid to include HIV testing. It’s not acceptable to have any health department in the state of Georgia that’s currently not trained, equipped and implementing rapid testing … You want me to go on? It’s just a lot,” she said.

SisterLove offers FREE HIV TESTING, Monday through Thursday at 1237 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd., SW Atlanta, Georgia 30310-0558 in Atlanta’s West End neighborhood. While there is still work that needs to be done, maybe the latest news will help our education efforts and decrease the number of new HIV cases. Get tested at SisterLove on Mon. Tues. & Thurs 11- 5 pm By Appointment- Please Call (404) 254-4734…OR TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WALK IN WEDNESDAYS between 11:00 am -6:00 pm, without an appointment.

SisterLove, Inc. has been at the forefront of community-based advocacy for women of color living with HIV/AIDS, for women of color at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS, and for all individuals in marginalized communities who are severely and disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS, especially in the Deep South and Global South.